How can an organisation’s Sales Culture drive the right behaviours?
Just what should all organisations be doing to ensure their cultures – and their employees – are following the highest ethical standards in their actions and behaviours?
Firstly, let’s talk about culture. Just what is it and what effect does it have?
Sometimes defined in words, often not, culture is “the way we do things around here”. Culture is a conditioning, a programming which drives our individual attitudes – the very same attitudes that determine our individual behaviour.
The culture of an organisation is the collective conditioning of each individual in that organisation – some of whom (quite often senior leadership) have a greater influence than others.
It’s reasonable to assume that if behaviour is not what you would like it to be organisation-wide – that organisation’s culture is not what it should be. To change organisational culture, you have to change individual conditioning. To change conditioning, a process is required. This process must have a leader/s to drive to drive the necessary change – maybe a different leader than he/she who drove your current culture.
So, what has all this to do with selling?
It’s fair to say that many questions are being asked about the ethics and integrity (or lack thereof) of many sales-focussed organisations in Australasia today. Something appears to have gone wrong with our perception of what constitutes customer-centric behaviour.
A big part of the problem with—and often a key contributor to ethically questionable behaviour—is a sales culture that promotes selling as something that you do to a customer rather than for and with a customer. Most sales training and coaching then reinforces that position by emphasising product knowledge and techniques for persuading (or sometimes manipulating) customers into buying, whether what they’re buying meets their needs or not.
This cultural view of selling can have a significant impact. It influences how the sales manager leads the team, what gets the most “air time,” how salespeople are developed and coached, and how salespeople themselves view selling.
A person’s view of selling is linked to their mindset, which could manifest in one of the following ways:
- Product mindset, where the emphasis is almost entirely on the product
- Transaction mindset, where the emphasis is on doing the same transaction over and over again
- Needs-focussed mindset, where the emphasis is on uncovering and addressing customer needs
In other words, their mindset determines whether their goal is to push product—the more the better—or to create value and serve the customer’s needs.
With product and transaction mindsets, the door is open for misbehaviour, especially when the environment created by the managers supports it, either subtly or overtly.
But when the salesperson is driven by a guiding belief that says, my role isn’t to push product but to uncover and fill customer needs, there’s an entirely different motivation, which leads to entirely different behaviour.
A needs-focussed mindset also releases a great deal of power within salespeople—an “x factor” that we call achievement drive. When people believe they’re doing right by the customer, they feel good about themselves. They have more confidence, more passion and more determination, and as a result, they’re able to build their own momentum.
A Quick Self-Audit for Evaluating Sales Cultures
Here are some questions you can ask to help determine whether or not your organisation is at risk or on the right path:
- How do our salespeople view selling? Do we need to shift mindsets?
- Are our salespeople driven by the question, How can I help this customer with their problems and needs? Or is their primary focus, How can I sell this product today?
- Do our salespeople have the skills to apply a needs-focused mindset, including knowing how to empathise with customers, ask the right questions and best serve their needs?
- Are our sales managers effectively coaching their teams to help customers and identify unmet needs, or are they focused almost exclusively on driving numbers around product?
- Through their words, behaviours and actions, do our sales managers encourage a positive view of selling and a customer-focussed approach?
The difference is clear: Focussing on the product breeds a product culture, where selling the product—no matter how questionable the methods or how high the ethical costs—is all that matters.
Focussing on needs breeds customer-centric sales cultures where everyone wins—because when you teach people how to ask the right questions, they’ll uncover more needs, sell more and build high-value, long-lasting customer relationships.
Note the generous use of the word ‘focus’ above – we do tend to achieve what we focus our efforts on. Focus your efforts and those of your people on truly serving the needs of your customer and your business will grow – and both your people and your customers will thank you for it.
Now, that’s a true Win-Win.
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